Regulations

This is another audio-only post.  Given how out-of-control my life has been with work, my side gig as an Anarchist Consultant, and the birth of my fourth beautiful daughter (and fourth total daughter), I’ve been less able to write things down as I want to be.  So, for now, I’m going out of my way to produce more short-form audio recordings on relevant subjects and release those more frequently.

This is the first of one such post.

Carpe Veritas,
Mad Philosopher

Stream-of-consciousness

Today is an audio-only episode.  It’s mostly just a stream-of-consciousness concerning different promotions I have going on and a little bit about the nature of “spreading the message”.

 

Something I forgot to mention in the recording is I am on a new Syndication site called “Everything Liberty“.  It’s worth checking it out.

Liberty Classroom: an Invaluable Tool

If you are reading this near the end of November in 2016, you can get some major discounts and provide a great deal of support to the Mad Philosopher project by going to Tom Woods Liberty Classroom and subscribing.  If you are reading this at any other time, you can still provide a great amount of value to the project by doing so.

Tom Woods Liberty Classroom is easily one of the most undervalued resources available on the internet, as it provides a legitimate PhD-level resource on a number of crucial subjects such as history and economics.  The term “legitimate” is important, here, as what most universities provide is only half-true and full of leftist propaganda.  This resource is the closest to comprehensive and the closest to unbiased as can be found.

Click Here to get some coupon codes and subscribe.  This affiliate program is definitely one of the best ways to support the Mad Philosopher project, second only to just sending me Bitcoin directly.

 

Here’s some free samples (the best stuff is behind the paywall, obviously):

the best way to fulfill the maxim “Carpe Veritas” is to subscribe to Liberty Classroom and take advantage of everything such a subscription provides.

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Logical Anarchy Guest Spot!

Today, I have another guest spot I’d like to present.  I feel much better about my performance on this episode than the previous guest spot I had, and I’d like my readers/listeners to check out the work that they do over at Logical Anarchy.

Carpe veritas



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Mad Philosopher is on Patreon!

I’m on Patreon now!

 

Howdy? I’m the your Mad Philosopher in residence. What makes me mad? Well… a great many things… but the short answer is that the way mankind has been living since long before my lifetime is deeply, unsettlingly, incomplete.

There is a tension in our lives. We all feel it, but none of us really grasp it, understand it. In the first world, in the 21st century, the poorest among us have access to technologies, foods, levels of education, and forms of entertainment that, by and large, surpass even the wildest dreams of the kings and emperors that lived even a few centuries ago. At the same time, we have been divorced from all that gave meaning to our actions. It’s the existential nightmare Nietzsche, Camus and Kafka were gesturing towards: a world in which one can literally accomplish anything, but the demands and absurdities of one’s lessers almost force one into choosing to accomplish nothing.

If you’re like me, the motivational talk on people’s email signatures, cubicle walls, and facebook posts seem more like excuses to celebrate mediocrity and attempts to be at peace with an unfulfilling life.

I may just be an angsty millennial, but having read philosophy non-stop for twenty years, I’m pretty confident that I’m not alone today, and I’m certainly not alone in history. I want to have a public conversation centered on this reality.

In the past, there were certain prerequisites for doing philosophy. The biggest example is that of patronage. If one was a wealthy slave-owner, one would have the leisure time to think about how awesome life is and write about how everyone (except slaves) should be able to just hang out and do philosophy all the time. If one wasn’t a wealthy slave owner, one would have to turn to the kings and bishops for patronage… and those philosophers would inevitably write about how awesome the kings and bishops are and how everyone was lucky to be ruled over by such beneficent stewards.

In today’s society, those that are able to produce value to others have access to disposable income. While I would love to do philosophy all the time, I’m too busy providing value to others in order to feed my family. If you find this conversation valuable, I can provide it for you; I do ask for your patronage, though, as today’s rulers are less than happy to hear what I have to say about them. Every little bit helps.

Carpe Veritas, and have a great time.

Coffee and Capitalism

This post is actually brought to you by a sponsor! Coffee By Gillespie is a great site for meeting your coffee needs. If you use Coupon Code “madphilosopher”, you can get 10% off, and it sure beats Starbucks.

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For all of my “complaining” about our sorry state of affairs in today’s statist and war-driven global society, I really wouldn’t choose to live in any other time in history. I kinda’ brought this up in my post righting Robert Reich’s horrifying mistakes and propaganda, but it bears repeating. Just today, I rode my personal self-powered chariot to my climate-controlled workplace, pooped indoors, performed ancient and arcane rituals off of printed media while wearing fine silks, ate foods imported from around the world, listened to several academicians and musicians performing for my satisfaction, and now I’m sipping on a beverage that 10th century kings murdered people over (and my version is infinitely better-tasting than theirs could ever hope to be). In just one day, I’ve accomplished nearly everything that King Louis the 14th had in his entire life… and I managed to do it on a shoestring budget.

That’s right, this post is another love-letter to capitalism. But this one, in particular, is brought to you by that most popular of drugs: coffee. Those of you familiar with the Tuttle Twins or Leonard Read will likely recognize what I’m about to say about this most amazing beverage.

As far as I can tell, coffee has the same origin story most of my favorite foods has: some people were hungry and decided to eat something they probably shouldn’t have… and after a few tries, found a way to eat it that didn’t result in a painful and sudden death. In this case, burning the seeds of a certain berry tree and making a tea out of the burned seeds. Between the caffeine in the seeds, the appetite-suppressing qualities of the beverage, and the fact that it tastes better than the nasty water and ales that the people of the time had to drink, it caught on pretty quickly. I can’t blame them.

Of course, unless you lived in Ethiopia at the time, you’d have to buy coffee from merchants who had the foresight to bring something like burned seeds up to Europe or wherever you happened to live at the time. That type of service would take a long time and it was fairly expensive. Ultimately, only the aristocracy had the ability to pony up the cash to buy the beverage, and only those with the social connections to the proper merchants even had access to a supply of these burned seeds. The workers (peasants) were relegated to drinking the fermented sewage which passed as ale at the time and had very little variety in what was available. This wasn’t a failure of capitalism, mind you, it was merely the stage of development Europe was at in it’s long, slow, climb out of the natural state of man (that is to say, abject poverty).

Of course, if someone wants something and someone else has it, a deal can always be struck. In this case, the demand for coffee was realized as quickly as something could be realized with old-school trade caravans. The fact that certain “brands” of coffee were in higher demand than others, as well as the fact that the demand of coffee relative to other commodities, encouraged farmers in areas able to grow coffee to make more and better coffee. Due to the profit margin associated with the supply and demand, people produce more and better coffee and, as it begins to meet the needs of foreign consumers, the price of this precious beverage actually decreases… until, in the 20th century, the phrase “that and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee” became commonplace. If that phrase doesn’t make sense or if you’re too young to remember it, it means that the “that” being referred to is worthless. Oh, and coffee is super cheap.

Of course, the coffee that was typically priced at a nickel was the cheap American swill that companies like Folgers produced. As a matter of fact, when American soldiers were in Europe during the World War, the coffee makers in Europe were astounded when the soldiers would take their delicious Turkish espresso and add a bunch of water and cream to it to essentially ruin the coffee to the point that it resembled the stuff they were used to back home. With the sudden boom in consumer communication technology following the fall of Berlin, the markets became much more efficient, and Europeans began drinking American swill and Americans began drinking espresso.

In my lifetime, this intercommunication of markets and shifting demands has created what I consider to be one of the “seven (consumer) wonders of the market”. The beverage I’m contentedly and lovingly sipping while writing this post is not your granddaddy’s coffee, just like the weed your stoner cousin is smoking isn’t your granddaddy’s weed. The market has produced a wide array of incredibly potent and delicious (mostly) harmless drugs at a reasonably affordable price, due entirely to the price-finding mechanisms and consumer demand. If it weren’t for capitalism, none of us would have tasted coffee, let alone, created the awesome stuff I’m drinking right now.

As anyone familiar with the marketplace will tell you, there’s always certain trade-offs one can (and even must) make when making an exchange. In this case, if you want convenience, you go to Starbucks (or the state-monopolized dispensary if you’re looking for weed) and pay a convenience premium. If you want the good stuff, you have to know the right people, whether it be the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop or that one stoner who sells pot out of the back entrance of a warehouse, which is a little less convenient, but it’s got much better bang for the buck.

After drinking Coffee By Gillespie and taking a look at their website, I’m comfortable claiming that this is a place that you can get both the convenience (and trustworthiness) of a Starbucks and the quality of that hard-to-find word-of-mouth shop without paying a premium. So far, my favorite roast/source is the “Tanzania Mbeya Highlands Peaberry”, but I haven’t tried all of the samples yet. Of course, my favorite type of coffee is the high-altitude, wet-washed, dark roasts, so this is likely to be my favorite of all the samples, anyway. It’s not as dark as some of the other roasts I like, but it’s got a certain sweetness and acidity to it that you can’t get in a darker roast.

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Anyway, now that I’ve got my coffee-snobbishness out of my system, I want to encourage you to support yourself, the economy, the coffea arabica, and this site all at once by going to Coffee By Gillespie and ordering your own bag of ecstasy (the sensation, not the drug) and using coupon code “madphilosopher” at checkout.

Before I let you go, though, I want to just do a quick rundown of the process by which this coffee gets to your door, because it’s a miracle of the market. There’s a guy in Tanzania or Ethiopia, or some other high-altitude tropical region who gets hired to tend some plants and harvest their fruits periodically. The guy paying him has also hired some people to soak the berries in water or lay them out in the sun until the seeds are easily removed. This guy then sells the seeds to a different guy. The guys growing and washing the coffee beans don’t need to know where the seeds are going or why, all they need is to ply their trade and get paid in order to elevate themselves out of poverty.

The guy who buys the seeds hires a crew to roast the seeds. Again, the employees don’t have to know all the intricacies of the market, only that they are getting paid to roast the beans. Then the guy with the roaster sells the beans to a distributor in a first-world country, somewhere. In order to get the beans from the opposite side of the globe, this distributor pays someone else to ship the beans from one side of the planet to the other. Then the distributor distributes the beans either directly to the customer or to a retail outfit. Either way, you then pay the distributor for these irreplaceable beans and consume them.

Looking at that long chain of laborers, and how much money it cost to get it from the dirt in Ethiopia to your stomach, it’s a wonder that it’s only about twenty bucks. Think about the shipping alone! $20 of gas can get my Prizm from one end of the state to the other on a good day… but this giant-ass ship gets your beans across the ocean for far less. It’s like magic! I’ll get into how that can be the case, later. For now, I want to explore even more intricacies. For example, the tools that the coffee farmers use are produced via similar means: from raw materials to finished product, the tool passes through several stages of laborers and exchanges. And the tools used by the roasters, and the shippers, and the distributors. It’s literally impossible, with the current tools at mankind’s’ disposal, to map out every single one of these relationships required to get coffee beans into your stomach and that caffeine into your blood… and that same complexity applies to just about everything else you use and consume, as well.

So, if no one can map out all of these relationships, how can it even happen? Well, that requires us to backtrack through that entire chain I indicated before. You pay a distributor for a particular batch of coffee, whether it be a $7 bucket of Folgers or a $16 package of “Ethiopia Organic Tencho Cooperative” deliciousness (10% off if you use my link and code). This sends a market signal (along with everyone else making these purchases) that there is money to be made in importing these products for less than that price per unit. Someone with enough money to purchase the roasted beans and pay for importation can then make such an investment. Making that investment sends a market signal to the roaster that there is money to be made in buying and roasting the beans for less than the distributor will pay per unit. Again, the roaster and grower see similar signals. At this stage, the grower needs employees. This sends a market signal to employees that there is a certain amount of money to be made for investing the time and work required to grow the beans, which may be a better option than what else is on the employment market.

As before, it’s not just a single channel of communication through the market, either. All the previously mentioned complexity still applies. Either the grower or his employer must purchase tools, which send those signals all they way back to the miners and lumberjacks, for example. This is where entrepreneurs, such as Coffee by Gillespie come in. What an entrepreneur is, at his heart, is someone who sees different resources available on the market and finds a way to mix them together in a new way that provides more value to others than the individual parts would. To (mis)quote Aristotle: “This whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

All this is only possible, specifically the bag of coffee for $20 despite all of the costs associated with making it and transporting it across the globe, due to economies of scale. It would be impossible to make only one bag of coffee and get it across the globe for less than $2,000, let alone $20. Fortunately, one laborer’s worth of beans produces several hundred bags of coffee and one set of tools can be used by multiple laborers. Ships can carry millions of bags of coffee, and if there isn’t enough coffee to fill the ship, they can fill up the space with other products from other distributors. This profitable sharing of resources is something that’s also too complex to leave up to one central plan or map, it can only happen by individual shipping companies looking at market signals and making the choices that are most profitable for themselves. It just so happens that the efficiency of everyone making such decisions with such information results in all of the amazing products we have at our disposal every day. And the best part is, that guy in Ethiopia whom you’ve never met and never will, would likely have been left to starve to death in the highlands, but has now found employment and a method of survival due to your desire to drink coffee.

I could write and talk all day about all the little details involved in this process, and I sometimes do. I don’t think I’m crazy for that, though, seeing as how Rothabrd and many others have lived their entire lives doing little else than studying and admiring this phenomenon.

Vivat Forum! and Carpe Veritas.

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Democracy: The God That Failed

Back in college, when Bitcoin was brand new, I was still a techno-optimist trotskyite, and I was only just halfway through Human Action for the first time, I had a weird conversation with an upperclassman.

I was arguing about Aristotelianism and its contributions to communism with a classmate when this upperclassman interrupted and began building a case for restoring a Catholic monarchy. Needless to say, I was neither surprised nor impressed… at least at first. Then, he started using the terminology used in Human Action and really got my attention.

At the end of our conversation, I was far from sold on his case for monarchy but I was willing to read the book he offered me off the shelf in the school library: Democracy: The God That Failed. I read the book and it changed my understanding of the world irrevocably. As a matter of fact, I went back and read the first half of Human Action again, and actually understood it. I wasn’t an immediate convert, though; it would be another two years before I dropped real communism in favor of communism light: republican conservatism.

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Why all the autobiography in a book review? I wanted people to know the reluctance with which I engaged the ideas in this book and the profound change it had on my philosophical moorings.

In this book, Hans Hermann Hoppe begins by exploring the historio-economic history of the rise of democracy, explores econ 101 as could only be taught by an Austrian economist who studied directly under Rothbard, and proceeds to describe the economics behind democracy, monarchy, and natural order. Of course, he makes the same case all Austrians do: “Value is subjective, so I’m not going to tell you what to value, but I am going to show you the relationships between various causes and effects so that you can act on those values efficaciously. So, if you value human flourishing…”

The primary focus of Hoppe is the nature of economics and the incentives that emerge under different political arrangements, specifically monarchy, democracy, and anarchy. I couldn’t do the work justice without approaching a page count comparable to the book, but I do want to give you a preview of what’s in store.

In the case of anarchy, economic incentives parallel the Darwinian reality of nature and, where many argue that is a flaw of anarchy, it is inescapable no matter what social structure one builds on top of that state of nature. For example, survival of those best conditioned to live in a particular environment is one such reality. The way this plays out in the absence of the state is that those better suited to delay gratification, cooperate with others, and defend private property are more likely to benefit from a division of labor, specialization of skills, and technological advancement than those who are less suited to such activities.

In the absence of criminal or political elements which undermine these activities, there will be a natural selective process by which those who have these abilities amass more wealth, social capital, and mating opportunities than those who do not. On a long enough timeline, this will create evolutionary side-effects but even in the short-run, market forces naturally puts wealth in the hands of those best suited to invest it in a beneficial manner. Hoppe notes that this process is, both a-priori and historically, the origin of monarchies.

Any given region with sufficient selective processes will eventually have the most well-adapted stock in charge of all or nearly all the land or other resources in the region, making the entire region one large landlord/renter arrangement. Given that this individual in-charge acquired this position by way of making wise investments and mutually-advantageous exchanges, there would be no reason to cease doing so at this point; this means that the de-facto king will continue making decisions directed at improving the value of his assets which, in turn, increases the quality of life of his tenants.

This means that those in service of the king do so by way of voluntary employment: knights, soldiers, constables, etc. provide for the security and management of the king’s assets in exchange for what amounts to wages and employee discounts/benefits. If, at any point, a tenant or employee is unable or unwilling to abide by the rules of the landlord, they can emigrate or be exiled.

It is this liberty which is at the heart of all the incentives for a healthy economy in a monarchy.  The king, in order to maintain or increase the value of his property, must strive to make it worth the cost of rent for his existing and potential productive tenants to remain and the tenants must make it worth the king’s time to invest in their quality of life. At the point in time the king no longer allows individuals to leave or otherwise undermines their ability to function within the bounds of private property, he invalidates his rightful claim to the property he is leasing to his tenants and becomes something more like a tyrant or warlord.

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With that transition, the people are incentivized to undermine the king’s property value while building their own investments. This leads to “black markets”, political graft, treason, and invitations to foreign kings or barbarians to invade. Such a transition is a death knell for that particular region’s economy and culture. By and large, this is the story of the collapse of the British Crown and Empire. Of course, what came next was less than preferable: the rise of democracy.

In much the same way as when a king becomes a criminal, when a democratic social order is imposed on a people, the economic incentives get turned upside-down. Whereas a king owns the kingdom and has both the natural inclination as well as economic incentive to manage it for the sake of long-term gains, a president does not own the state. Instead, a president has near-unlimited access and control over the criminal apparatus of the state designed for expropriation and market manipulation for a limited amount of time. In such a circumstance, a president is incentivized to raise taxes, secure long-term benefits for himself at the expense of future taxpayers and presidents, and to funnel value into the assets he actually owns and that his friends own.

It’s not just the politicians who are corrupted either. Whereas anarchy and de-facto anarchistic monarchy are naturally eugenic, selecting for those most able to cooperate and produce value for others, democracy is a dysgenic process, selecting for those best able to rile the masses into demanding benefits at the expense of those producing the taxed revenue, those best suited to criminal activity, and actually incentivizing all of the behaviors witnessed in the seediest inner-city slums.

The majority of the text is spent on exploring all off the perverse and dysgenic economic incentives which democracy installs over and above, and in direct contradiction to, the natural order. Given that HHH is the economist and I am not and that he spends about 150 pages on the subject, I’ll leave the rest to him. In the meantime, I want to move on to the final portion of his text.

The final portion of the text is focused on where one could be expected to go in a post-democracy world. Barring a wholesale collapse of western civilization a-la the fall of Rome which preceded the rise of free-market monarchies, it is unlikely that the state will find an appropriate method by which to auction off its properties to the people in such a way so as to undo the undue gains of the corporate entities which have grafted themselves onto the political machine. Instead, modern economic technologies such as mutual and voluntary associations and risk-pools (such as HOAs and insurance companies) can simply begin to compete with the political apparatuses and, due to the nature of voluntary markets, outperform the state and put them out of business, so long as they secure their ability to defend against the states’ violence.

This scenario seems to have a fair amount of potential behind it, given HHH’s economic arguments to the efficiency and efficacy of such a transition. While the arguments are very involved and well-argued, the general theme of the argument is that “The state provides for (or at least, doesn’t wholly disallow) various services, such as the roads, education, security, risk pooling, etc. because there is a demand for it, and in the absence of the state, there would still be a demand for what amounts to our current status quo. He explores the economic incentives that would be in place wile fulfilling those market demands in the absence of the states’ direct influence and the social order that is likely to come about as a result of those demands and incentives.

From what I know of Hoppe’s other works, I think that he finds the outcome he presents to be most preferable. While I have a more traditionalist and rugged individualist bias, which I think would be sustainable in a free-market environment, I find his proposed option infinitely preferable to what we have today. Essentially, we would have all the bourgeois amenities such as grocery stores, roads, internets, common currencies, military defenses etc. without any of the current fallout such as poorly-planned roads, wars of foreign aggression, taxation, and perverted markets.

He makes a compelling case for why competitive insurance agencies would actually manage to provide the services that government cannot in a manner consistent with property rights and individual liberties, all economically-based, of course. The first time I read this book, I was very off-put by his apparent love for insurance companies, but the second time around I realized that he’s not talking about your dad’s insurance companies, the ones twisted and maligned by intimate relationships with state violence and regulations, but real risk-mitigation and risk-sharing pools owned and managed by the people best suited to managing such affairs in a competitive market.

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His cases for what ought to come next seem fairly abstract, and he has been called out on that abstractedness by many other authors. To which he responded with a supplementary essay titled “What Must be Done”, wherein he outlines, step-by-step, what he believes to be the most direct and moral route from here to there in modern-day-America. Seeing as how this essay is far more controverial than Democracy: The God That Failed , this is an appropriate place to bring up the most controversial parts of the book (as if advocating the case for monarchy over democracy and anarchy over monarchy isn’t counter-cultural enough). There is a quote of his, from the middle of the book which has become quite popular in my circles on facebook:

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He also makes the case that a free market will naturally select for what has been the traditional family and lifestyle structure in the West. It’s not too unreasonable to think this, seeing as how that traditional family structure necessarily emerged from the selective pressures extant at the time (pre-feudal Europe) and still seem to have the most economically sound incentive structures built into them, from the a-priori angle. Where it gets controversial is when he argues that insurance companies (in their free-market iteration) will act to mitigate moral hazard rather than promote it and, that mitigation of moral hazard is likely to result in (justified) discrimination against those individuals choosing alternative lifestyles, such as homosexuality, polygamy/andry, extreme drug use, and other things that the cultural “right” views as deviant. This discrimination could be as benign as increased premiums or as intense as a denial of coverage which, in Hoppe’s propertarian conception, would result in physical exile from certain communities. As I’ve covered in my post on LibPar, this does not necessarily mean the end of the homosexual lifestyle or culture, it merely means that communities would have to form around such lifestyle choices and they would have to either be isolationist or able to compete in the marketplace against their more conservative neighbors.

The book is incredibly well-researched and annotated. There are footnotes on every page, some taking up entire pages in their own right. They are drawn from all sorts of references, not just Austrians; Hoppe calls upon historians of every political persuasion, mainstream econometricians, Austrian economists, sociologists, and more. There are a few texts that he referenced enough times that they have been put on my reading list.

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TL;DR: Democracy: The God That Failed is one of the books that, if there were a canon of AnCap literature, would be in said canon. When I first read the book, it neither converted me from my communist ways, nor did it convince me to become a Catholic monarchist as was the intent of the guy that told me to read it. In hindsight, though, it was the only way that I could begin to understand what AnCaps on facebook were saying and gave me something to argue against. As is typical, though, a few years later I could recall the things I had argued against, but had changed my position on all of them. I decided to re-read the book and discovered that, on all the key points at least, I agree with HHH. There are some minor side details and some expressed preferences that I hold contrary views on, but I think this book is a Must-Read, right after Human Action.

It’s Been A While…

Howdy, Y’all?

It’s been a while since Mad Philosopher has had an update; for that, I apologize.  I feel that I should give the readers an update on my life and why the blog has slowed down so dramatically in recent weeks.

In the later part of May, I started a new job, moving from a grunt-level facilities position at one church to being a facilities supervisor at a different, larger church/school.  The workload at this new position is somewhat overwhelming as I try to get the facility up to code, deal with the State’s regulations, and try to get properly staffed.  Hopefully, this overwhelming nature of work will be temporary and, as I make progress in these exercises, it does seem that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  Unfortunately, my life has largely been consumed by this workload, making it difficult to find time to get content produced in a timely manner.  Since May, all the content that has been produced was mostly completed before I started my new Job and all I had to do was tidy it up and post it.  This is why the audio portion of the blog has stopped entirely: audio work takes a lot of time, especially after the recording is completed.

What time has not been consumed by work as been directed at activities a little more close-to-home with more immediate results than the blog seems to have produced, recently.

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Supporting local bands, founded by AnCaps and featuring songs like “Prohibition Sucks”.

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Making time for father-daughter time, like designing and building a desk/bookshelf with as little guidance as possible.

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Starting a mens’ group with my dad, after he begged and pleaded with me to help him out. (It’s odd, we hang out all the time, but the only photos of the two of us together are from Independence Day celebrations.)

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I have also been hosting my philosophy club sessions with a fair degree of consistency.  Of course the awesomeness of between three and twenty people getting together to drink, eat, and discuss the fundamental nature of reality is to much for mortal eyes, and so no pictures have ever been taken.

I’ve also been doing quite a lot in the category of personal health and fitness, psychological strengthening, family development, and a couple minor entrepreneurial experiments.  I hope to be able to make the time to write about each of these other activities in more detail in coming weeks, but we’ll see what happens.  For now, I just want to let the readers know I haven’t died or gotten arrested yet, and to thank those who are still around for their patience.  In the mean time, you can all watch the raw video of an upcoming “Friendly Argument” segment that I’m still working on getting the audio cleaned up for release:

 

Carpe Veritas,
Mad Philosopher

Contracts and the NAP

A while back, I mentioned that I think contracts are bullshit. Some day, I hope to get into a full ontology of contracts, but I doubt many of my readers really have much interest in such things. Instead, I’m going to Start a conversation with a few people I know in real life concerning the nuances of the NAP with regards to contracts.

 

Would breach of contract be a violation of the non aggression principle? What about scheduled payments in the future, non-compete, and nondisclosure agreements?

Given that I think contracts are bullshit, I bet most people would assume that the answer I have is simple and straightforward: “no”. Of course, I can never let something be simple. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll just assume the definition I expect to use for the full post on the ontology of contracts and say, “a contract is merely an external explication of an agreement between two or more parties”. In other words, Bruce and Alfred come to an agreement concerning their affairs, say a nondisclosure agreement. That agreement exists as a relationship between the two but, for the sake of clarity (given the human condition), they decide to write the entire thing down and, content that the written document explicates the agreement sufficiently, sign the document to signify their provisional assent to the agreement and the accuracy of the document written to reflect that agreement. Then Bruce and Alfred put the document somewhere where it can be referenced but not altered by either Bruce or Alfred.

That’s a contract, right? It sounds pretty similar to a previous discussion we’ve had. So, lets say the agreement is that Bruce will pay Alfred for services rendered at a certain rate so long as Alfred does not let anyone know some secret Bruce is trying to keep, either by actively communicating that information to someone or letting them figure it out on their own through some form of neglect. Would Alfred be aggressing against Bruce by telling the secret? We can certainly agree that doing so would be dishonorable and vicious, but would it be criminal? Another way to ask would be to say “Can Bruce justifiably kill Alfred if he does so?”

I haven’t gone into that issue in full detail yet, either, but the easy way to put it is I stand by Cantwell’s philosophy of paperclips; It is theoretically justifiable to shoot someone over stealing a paperclip. Admittedly, the odds of encountering someone who would both steal a paperclip and allow the situation to escalate to the point of lethal force are statistically negligible and the odds of encountering someone who values the sanctity of one’s ownership of paperclips over the exorbitant cost of a bullet are equally negligible. However, the moral reasoning remains sound, even if the tactical choice would be tolerance.

Why am I talking about lethal force and paperclips when I should be talking about contracts? Well, is Alfred committing a crime against Bruce if he violates the contract? Can Bruce justifiably kill Alfred for doing so? Surely, the cost of the secret is greater than that of a paperclip. Even so, I argue that the secret is of a different category than that of the paperclip. Whereas a paperclip is property, a secret is nothing more than an abstraction of an individual’s ideas. The primary historical role of contracts such as nondisclosure agreements is an attempt to use the law to transmute mental things into material things, which can then be treated as property. So, even though Alfred may be dishonorable and breach his agreement with Bruce, he isn’t “stealing” anything from him.

What recourse would Bruce have in such a circumstance? Under the legal fictions currently in place, contracts are largely treated as laws are: if one violates a contract and then continues to refuse to play by the rules of the contract concerning breach of contract, eventually the issue would escalate to an encounter with law enforcement, which if the dishonorable man still refuses to comply, will be killed by law enforcement. Because of this, the current state of contract law is every contract follows the formula “We agree to do these things. If we don’t do these things, someone’s gonna fucking die.” Just like a law.

The same is the case if Bruce does not pay Alfred for his services, just for the sake of clarification.

I am obviously not impressed with this formula. As such, I have been exploring contract theories and trying to figure out the exact relationship between the ontology of contracts and the nature of the NAP. Thus far, I have found two possible answers to the question above, and they are mutually exclusive. As such, I’m presenting this post as a conversation-starter (as is the custom at this point).

Option #1: Contracts are 100% bullshit. In this case, the reality of the situation is straightforward: caveat emptor. If Bruce and Alfred make an agreement that Alfred will do butler stuff and Bruce will pay him at the end of the month and either one fails to do so, it renders the agreement void. If Alfred fails to do butler stuff, Bruce doesn’t have to pay him and if Bruce doesn’t pay Alfred, he doesn’t have to do butler stuff. The reality is that all that exists is the agreement between the two with their honor and social standing at stake.

While this solution is simple, it does have some complications. For example, the agreement is temporal in nature: Alfred spends a month of his life performing a service for Bruce before not receiving payment or, if paid in advance, Bruce pays a month’s salary before not receiving the agreed upon service. There are a few technologies which can be employed to prevent such instances, but in the words of Sov Tsu: “If you create a technology to solve a moral problem, you didn’t actually solve the problem.” So, instead, I will simply point out the obvious circumstance surrounding contract-violators: if one is living in a society of a reasonable size, there will be little opportunity to violate agreements without destroying one’s reputation and being dishonored or declared an outlaw. These extenuating circumstances are enough to keep a majority of potential frauds at bay, even in our overpopulated cities and towns.

Of the technologies available to increase the effectiveness of social accountability is that of reputation systems (which I generally dislike); one can have an Angie’s list or a yelp which operates much like a credit score: if one doesn’t have enough honor points, you probably don’t want to get into a contract with them. Another is that of outlaw status; if someone violates fundamental social mores, they can be declared an outlaw by the offended parties, which basically puts them outside of the general functioning of society: you breach a contract without making proper amends, you are refused service at many businesses and won’t be defended if someone were to try to rob or kill you.

Or, alternatively, we can look to the free (black) markets that have existed outside of normal contract law since forever and see what technologies exist there. The one that comes to mind right away is that of escrow holdings: Bruce puts Alfred’s payment into an escrow account at the start of the month, to be paid out to Alfred after a month of service, and they place a third party in charge of that account. Another free market device is that of word-of-mouth; someone trusted would have to vouch for the trustworthiness of each party. In this case, Thomas, Bruce’s father, vouched for Alfred and so Bruce trusts him (and vice versa).

There is opportunity for abuse in this resolution, as with any. Reputation systems can be gamed, are open to corruption, and can become oppressive forms of governance as opposed to useful tools for self-actualization. Public shaming is only as effective as a society is homogeneous, culturally speaking. Escrow services work great for payment plans and such, but do nothing with regards to agreements which do not concern direct exchange of goods. This is why self-empowerment, social cohesion, and populations within the Bunbar number are crucial to a truly prosperous society: the natural market functions of such a society drastically mitigate the harm caused by fraudsters and indolence without resorting to the criminal activities of the state.

Option #2: Contracts have a social function and are therefore not 100% bullshit. In this formulation, contracts have impetus insofar as they can be enforced without violation of the NAP. So, unlike laws, I don’t think one could pretend a contract is valid if it were enforced with the same mechanism (“do X, or we’ll fucking kill you.”). If one agrees to arbitration by a third party and consequences for breach-of-contract as part of the agreement, it is conceivable that polycentric legal systems could manage to serve as a lubricant for commerce in societies, both big and small.

This polycentric system of agreed upon contractual obligations (and punishments) and arbitrators is certainly preferable to the monopolized and criminal system currently in-place throughout the developed world. Between the competitive nature of the market for “justice” and the voluntary nature of contracts (in theory, at least), this system would likely produce something resembling courts which maintains a reasonably high level of satisfaction with legal arbitration. Given the versatility of anarcho-capitalist theory concerning polycentric law, I imagine that such competition would demonstrate the forms of contract theory which produce the most utility over time, independent of their truth-value, of course. If I were to venture a guess, of what that would look like, I’m guessing that the theories of Stephan Kinsella will likely produce the most utility as well as most closely reflect the facts of the matter, even if he has more faith in contracts than I do.

There are two problems I see with this position, though. First, the issue of honor still plays an inescapable role in this dilemma: a dishonorable person who will not honor an agreement will be equally unlikely to honor the specific clause concerning retribution or the presumed authority of the courts. Ultimately, then, we find ourselves in the initial situation presented in option #1. Second, I believe the harm-reduction and forward-thinking provided by standard financial and interpersonal practices far outperform any sort of contract and arbitration service beyond that which is contained in standard interpersonal and fiscal practices. What I mean is putting lenders in-charge of their own interest rates and application process will enable market functions to weed out the honorable and dishonorable, as does actually knowing one’s customers, etc.

This obviously didn’t cover all the nuances of contracts and such, but it is a starting place for a discussion. I need to do more research into the old tort systems and read more Stephan Kinsella. For the meanwhile, I propose that contracts are bullshit and one ought to strive to be honorable and surround oneself with honorable people. It couldn’t hurt to keep records of one’s agreements and obligations, though. Really, the approach one ought to take to contracts is the same as one ought to take to any service that is currently monopolized by government: ask “can this service be provided without the intrinsic threat of murder AND does this service have any necessity in a free society?

TL;DR: Contracts are bullshit, but they are still an important area of discussion to AnCaps and normies, alike. Insofar as that discussion applies to my project, I guess I’m halfway obligated to write about them. Contracts really seem to simply exist as an external point of reference for agreements, which are relational between two or more parties. As such, whether or not violating a contract or agreement (fraud, essentially) is a violation of the NAP is what is really at the heart of the discussion. I argue that most, if not all, cases of fraud are not actually violations of the NAP and that the old adage of “caveat emptor” ought to be kept in mind. As such, the initiation of force against a fraudster is, itself, a violation of the NAP. However, all the finer points of contract theory are currently beyond my expertise and from what I know of Stephan Kinsella, he would be the guy to read for ideas.

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No Treason: Lysander Spooner

This month’s Lucaf Fits meeting (that’s my philosophy club) is centered on the nature of freedom. I did my best to try and separate my apolitical proclivities from the philosophy club, as I wanted to be a little more culturally ecumenical with the group’s prospective members, but the group demanded it. The difficulty with finding literature for such a discussion is that You have statist bullshit on one side and high-level praxeological works by anarchists on the other side, with a little bit of lefty garbage scattered between the two. However, there is a gem hidden in that grey zone between the two extremes: Lysander Spooner‘s “No Treason: The constitution of No Authority”.

 

As always, a bit of historical context is in order. Spooner was born at the beginning of the 19th century in America. He was a natural-born anarchist/agorist. He set up a law firm in Massachusetts and quickly became recognized as one of the best lawyers available, despite not having the required government permits to do so. He made a compelling legal case against licensure, but that cost him potential clients, as the government did everything in their power to keep him from acquiring new clients. After business dried up, he tried a few unsuccessful entrepreneurial efforts and eventually decided to set up a post office as an act of defiance against the violent monopoly that the US government held on postal services, and quickly outperformed his criminal competitors. Of course, that didn’t last very long, as the government violently shut him down. From that point on, he was a one-man publishing company, writing almost as much as Rothbard, himself, much to the same effect as Rothbard.

One can’t discuss a lawyer, activist, or political commentator in 19th century America without addressing slavery. Spooner was one of the many activists in the 19th century that has been stricken from the mainstream historical record for the heinous crime of not fitting the ex-post-facto justification for the war of northern aggression. He was a die-hard abolitionist AND he was a defender of the Confederacy’s right to secede from the Union and tend their own affairs. He wasn’t alone, but he is certainly one of the more prominent members of that elite group.

No Treason was actually written as a response to the war of northern aggression, pointing out how the lies written and perpetuated by the Federalists had lost any of their legitimacy when Lincoln (at the behest of criminal bankers) purportedly abolished chattel slavery by way of actively enslaving half of the inhabited continent of America by way of military conquest. In many ways, Spooner is the godfather of the sovereign citizen movement, using common law practices and contract law to point out the reality that the existing government is not only criminal but is, in fact, illegal. He met a similar fate as many Sovereign Citizens, as well… he was mostly ignored into obscurity.

That obscurity is unwarranted, though. In “No Treason”, Spooner presents a compelling case using common law and the contract law of his day, demonstrating the Constitution to be neither a legal document nor a reasonable declaration of intent. He attacks the rationale behind the “Social Contract” argument, demonstrating that the Constitution meets no necessary or sufficient conditions for being a legally-binding contract and that, even if it did, “We know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now… And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them.”

He also demonstrates that the secret ballot undermines the legality of the contract and reveals the true nature of the government under the Constitution:
“What is the motive to the secret ballot? This, and only this: Like other confederates in crime, those who use it are not friends, but enemies; and they are afraid to be known, and to have their individual doings known, even to each other… In fact, they are engaged quite as much in schemes for plundering each other, as in plundering those who are not of them. And it is perfectly well understood among them that the strongest party among them will, in certain contingencies, murder each other by the hundreds of thousands (as they lately did do) to accomplish their purposes against each other. Hence they dare not be known, and have their individual doings known, even to each other. And this is avowedly the only reason for the ballot: for a secret government; a government by secret bands of robbers and murderers. And we are insane enough to call this liberty! To be a member of this secret band of robbers and murderers is esteemed a privilege and an honor! Without this privilege, a man is considered a slave; but with it a free man! With it he is considered a free man, because he has the same power to secretly (by secret ballot) procure the robbery, enslavement, and murder of another man, and that other man has to procure his robbery, enslavement, and murder. And this they call equal rights!”

He also consistently argues against the possibility that most, or even any, individuals consent to be governed under the Constitution. Citing the involuntary nature of taxation, the demonstrated propensity for the government to initiate violence to get its way, the illegality of putting a small group of unaccountable oligarchs in charge of a violent apparatus of coercion and theft, and so on. He also points out that, even though the government consists entirely of criminals, they are not even preferable to common criminals, because:
“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves “the government,” are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.
In the first place, they do not, like him, make themselves individually known; or, consequently, take upon themselves personally the responsibility of their acts. On the contrary, they secretly (by secret ballot) designate some one of their number to commit the robbery in their behalf, while they keep themselves practically concealed.”

Even if people consented to being enslaved by the government and found it preferable to the possibility of falling prey to common highwaymen, Spooner argues that there is no mechanism, physical, metaphysical, legal, or otherwise, by which one could accomplish such an end. Ignoring the performative contradiction of such an activity, Spooner argues: “If I go upon Boston Common, and in the presence of a hundred thousand people, men, women and children, with whom I have no contract upon the subject, take an oath that I will enforce upon them the laws of Moses, of Lycurgus, of Solon, of Justinian, or of Alfred, that oath is, on general principles of law and reason, of no obligation. It is of no obligation, not merely because it is intrinsically a criminal one, but also because it is given to nobody, and consequently pledges my faith to nobody. It is merely given to the winds.” This is a result of the secret ballot, the non-contractual nature of the Constitution, and the manner in which the Constitution is inflicted on those who do not assent and have never assented to be party to the contract.

Lysander Spooner writes with a command of both legal theory and language in a way so as to make slightly-complex legal concepts accessible to the reader while also maintaining a level of entertainment-value which allows one to read through the entire work. It is only about 75 pages long, so one can get through it in an afternoon if one really applies oneself. He touches on other ideas that are central to libertarian discourse, such as the idea of “voting in self defense” and the economic realities inflicted on the peasantry by international banking cartels. I argue that this work, like several others mentioned on the blog, ought to be on everyone’s reading list.

TL;DR: I’ll put the TL;DR version here, in Spooner’s own words:
“Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

Also, here’s a silly video from the Free Thought Project to a similar effect:
https://www.facebook.com/thefreethoughtprojectcom/videos/1765770890309837/

Slave Rebellions and the Homestead Principle

In 1969, two significant libertarians wrote articles for the Libertarian Forum Volume 1. One Karl Hess published a list of questions he felt needed concrete answers from the libertarian community and Murray Rothbard dutifully stepped up to the plate and answered those questions from a principled, pragmatic, and economically-minded stance. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, though, this work of Rothbard’s has been excised from the libertarian consciousness and left to the AnComs to champion.

Rothbard is widely recognized as the arch-AnCap and rightly so. Without too much geeking out, I want it to be known that Rothbard, with nothing but a pen, brain, and lectures, has done more for humanity’s sake than nearly any other individual. Of course, he used that brain, pen, and lecturing gig towards such an end for fifty-or-so years and, understandably, made some mistakes along the way. The most significant of those mistakes, which he admitted to being an unmitigated disaster , was the time he spent on the political left.

Between the left-friendly rhetoric and the apparent inability for most to contextualize and dispassionately read material, “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” has gone overlooked despite its presentation of what amounts to, simultaneously, the most principled and most actionable solution concerning the problem of de-socializing state property. Admittedly, this is not entirely Rothbard’s fault, as he was answering the questions of Mr. Hess, a bleeding-heart liberal lacking any solid grasp of libertarianism’s philosophical commitments. Instead of shredding Hess’ article for it’s numerous errors, though, Rothbard attempted to address it on its own terms.

Hess was clearly unaware of the inherent “right-wing” nature of libertarianism/anarchism, openly denigrating “the right” in favor for “left-libertarian” (AKA Marxist) presumptions. The most philosophically criminal of which being his overturning of the ontological hierarchy of human activities, claiming that conceptions of rights and property are derived from some goal of human activity as opposed to the other way around. Such an argument is nothing short of a performative contradiction. Additionally, he lifts openly Marxist revolutionary rhetoric and terminology while also demanding that specifics be given concerning environmental agendas, the revolutionary takeover of General Motors, and egalitarian nonsense such as racially-motivated “reparations” programs in the context of libertarianism.

Given the stage of development Rothbard was at and the stage set by Hess, it isn’t surprising how Marxist Rothbard’s response sounds. Despite all the garbage concerning answers to Hess’ stupid questions, Rothbard still produced a gem which demands legitimate attention. Instead of doing what Rothbard ought to have done and devoting my energy to destroying Hess, what I want to do here is mine out the gem Rothbard created using his later, more AnCap material to inform this activity.

Slave Rebellions and the Homestead Principle

It can be taken for granted in anarchist circles that the dichotomy most central to libertarian discourse is that between the state (socialists) and the individual (anarchists). Another, less equivocal, way to name that dichotomy would be that between the criminal (outlaw) and the non-criminal. In order to appropriately understand this dichotomy, one must first come to an appropriate, if basic, understanding of property.

In the tradition of John Locke, property comes into being by way of homesteading. The simplest conception of homesteading is that unowned property enters into private ownership by virtue of an individual investing one’s own property into it, whether it be labor or materials or by way of occupying or otherwise adding value to it. After a certain property is homesteaded, it can easily pass from one owner to another by way of voluntary trade or donation. This is the basis of all forms of human interaction and that which is commonly referred to as “rights”.

For the sake of clarity, a definition of “property” ought to be proffered here. I use the term to mean “any discrete object to which one has access, control over, and a legitimate claim by virtue of homestead or acquisition from the previous owner with the owner’s assent”. Incidentally, I’ve also addressed the concept of “theft” as applies to property before, and recommend that others read the post centered on the issue. In lieu of reading the whole post, one should at least be aware that theft, in this conception, is the unauthorized use, consumption, or acquisition of another’s property.

In such a case that one steals another’s property, one is engaged in crime and is, therefore, deserving of the title and status of “outlaw”. The unfortunate etymology of the term notwithstanding, all it means is that one such individual is not likely to be welcome in polite, cooperative society, so much so that they are likely to, themselves, have property taken from them and be the recipient of violence. Ideally, this circumstance would lead to the outlaw seeking reconciliation with his victims, making the victim whole. Even if reconciliation is impossible, it would still be morally and economically preferable for the outlaw’s stolen property to be confiscated by literally any private individual who can invest it back into cooperative society. Not only should the stolen property be re-appropriated by the market, but also any (formerly) legitimate property belonging to the outlaw which was utilized for that theft.

The clear example of this principle would be a back-alley mugging. Say I take a shortcut down the wrong alley in Denver and find myself held at gunpoint. My assailant demands my wallet. For the sake of discussion, I either hand over my wallet or have it forced from me. It would clearly be justified if I were to promptly re-appropriate my wallet from him. Not only would it be tactically sound, but it would also be morally justified for me to confiscate his firearm and maybe even his getaway vehicle as well. If I am overpowered and some honorable bystander witnesses this event, he would be equally justified in intervening and doing so on my behalf.

This action is preferable and just for three reasons. Firstly, it makes the victim of a crime closer to being made whole and increases the opportunity for justice to take place. Secondly, it decreases the opportunity of the outlaw to continue committing crimes. Thirdly, it sends a market signal that there are externalities and risks associated with committing crimes, thereby reducing the likelihood of others taking such a course of action.

A crime which has only recently been acknowledged as such, historically speaking, is that of slavery. Ultimately, slavery is little more than institutionalized coercion and theft. The (largely fictional) account of slavery in the American South is an easy example of this reality: individuals compelled by the use of force to perform tasks and refrain from others while also being robbed of the fruits of their labor. This description may sound reductionist, but no one could argue that it is not the heart of the matter. The only change that may be warranted would be the addition of some description of scale, but that is superfluous to this discussion.

Given the above description of homesteading, theft, and confiscation along with the popular sentiment concerning slavery, I imagine it would be largely non-controversial to claim that a slave rebellion in such a climate would be morally justified. At a minimum, one who believes the American Revolution was justified would have to acknowledge the legitimacy of a slave rebellion in the South.

Such a fictional rebellion could take several forms. One, unfortunately impractical, instance would be an entire plantation or county witnessing its slave populations simply standing tall and walking off the plantation. I imagine most can see why that would be impossible; given the surrounding environment, it would likely turn out much like emancipation really did. More likely to succeed and more in-line with the first part of this post would be the confiscation or re-homestead of the plantations. Rather than remaining complicit with their slavery (horizontal enforcement, complying with orders, etc.), the slaves could act in self-defense, thereby exiling or executing their masters and confiscating or re-homesteading the products of their forced labor and the instruments by which that theft occurred.

This is where Rothbard’s application of the homestead principle comes into play. How ought the slave re-appropriate the plantation? What options are available? By way of the nature of homesteading, each slave who remains on the plantation and continues to work would naturally come into ownership of his tools and the immediate fruits of his labor. While the theory is simple and broad, the application could be messy and case-specific.

One possibility would be an extreme individualist approach, whereby the individual plants on the plantation would be divided among the farmhands while the individual household appliances and rooms would be divided among the house servants and a micro-economy could emerge whereby the cooks could prepare meals in exchange for the fruits of the field and as rent for staying in the house… but this solution is likely to result in friction: petty squabbles over bits and pieces of the plantation and personal disputes.

An other option would be to collectivize ownership of the plantation whereby a communist micro-state could be formed. Each former slave would continue doing the very things they were before the rebellion, only replacing the masters’ directions with weekly meetings to determine how the plantation ought to be run. Presumably, these meetings would also serve to manage how wealth ought to be distributed amongst the former slaves who choose to stay. Of course, this solution looks far too similar to an Orwell novel and is likely to go as well as the Bolshevik revolution.

A more likely to succeed option would be a sort of middle-ground by which the confiscated plantation would be incorporated, for lack of a more accurate term. It would take a certain degree of commitment and foresight, but the former slaves could divide the plantation into a number of shares equal to the number of remaining former slaves, essentially granting virtual ownership of the plantation to those who re-homesteaded it. This creates an economic incentive to remain and invest labor and play nice with others in order to increase the value of the shares one owns in the plantation. Such activities would increase the dividends and resale value of the share as well as increasing the security of one’s livelihood. However, if one desired to leave, they could, using the dividends or resale of the share to serve as compensation for one’s participation in the labor and rebellion preceding his departure.

Admittedly, this is all hypothetical. To my knowledge, no such rebellion occurred in actual history, which leads me to believe that slavery, writ large, wasn’t as bad as I was told in elementary school. Even so, I only presented three out of a literal infinitude of resolutions of a slave rebellion. Given my more pessimistic views of human genetics, the most likely outcome would be something similar to that which exists in sub-Saharan Africa as opposed to Iceland. However, this hypothetical would be far more likely to end well in the following example.

Before moving further, it is important to draw attention to the basics of this hypothetical. The justification for and the means of achieving this slave rebellion is a combination of self-defense and confiscation in conjunction with the homestead principle, as indicated at the beginning of this post. Self-defense from criminal acts is eminently justifiable, this applies to theft and coercion and, therefore, to slavery. In the case of self-defense, confiscation of the implements of crime-in-progress as well as stolen property is justified as well. Stolen property is, in practice, unowned due to the outlaw effect and the lack of legitimate claim in conjunction with access to the property. Even if that weren’t the case, an executed or exiled criminal’s former property (legitimate or otherwise) is effectively unowned and, therefore, open to homestead.

With this argument in mind, we turn our attention to other instances of slavery. Most widespread, historically and today, is the case of slavery known as the state. By way of regulation, taxation, enforcement, and other euphemistically-named criminal activities, the state coerces specific behaviors, steals and destroys property, and engages in all manner of murderous, coercive, and thieving activities. It is impossible to define slavery in a manner consistent with its historical referents while excluding government in a manner consistent with its historical referents. In Rothbard’s words, “The state is a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called ‘taxation’ and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around.”

In the case of state-slavery “All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted… Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty.” In the spirit of the earlier example, “How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.”

The specific examples are largely straightforward: police can take their armor, guns, and vehicles home and take advantage of a sudden demand for private security personnel in the absence of the state. Lawyers and judges can establish arbitration firms. Educators can take control of the facilities and implements of education and continue to teach in a competitive market. Those currently providing non-marketable “services”, such as DMV employees, bureaucrats, union thugs, and military will likely have to find a way to re-brand their respective talents of race poverty. Of course, the slave-holders themselves, the politicians, executive officers, representatives, and lobbyists will face exile or execution. Unfortunately, not everything is that straightforward. What of corporatist entities? General Motors, Haliburton, Koch, MSNBC, the Post Office, and “private” colleges are wholly indistinguishable from the state, itself.

“As a result of zealous lobbying on behalf of the recipient… The same principle applies… they deserve a similar fate of virtuous homesteading and confiscation.” In the case of corporations and organizations that receive half or more of their funds though government institutions, they are effectively inseparable from the state and must suffer the same fate. The military industrial complex, especially, ought to be confiscated from the criminal band known as the state, not only for its complicity in theft but also its open endorsement of globalized murder. Important note: this is a wholly different issue that the legal abuse suffered by firearms and alcohol manufacturers and distributors when their products are abused.

Speaking of these absurdly regulated industries, many of a communist persuasion will argue that all industry is a beneficiary of government and ought to be re-homesteaded. I disagree. Whereas Haliburton is a direct recipient of welfare, most other corporations are merely indirect beneficiaries of the state’s criminal activities by way of limited competition, externalized expenses, and coercing purchase of goods and services. These corporations will be forced, in the absence of the state, to either adapt to the ensuing market correction or fold and sell their assets. Besides, it is morally suspect and quite inefficient to try and homestead every regulated industry. Those that manage to adapt to market correction were clearly sufficiently virtuous enough to deserve protection from re-homestead, whereas those that fold and sell out were vicious enough to deserve such a fate and homesteading becomes superfluous, as those entities are peaceably re-introduced into the free market.

TL;DR: What is required to de-socialize the state and appropriately pursue the abolition of slavery is nothing short of a slave rebellion. Such a slave rebellion must be conducted in accordance with the moral principles of self-defense, confiscation, and homestead. Otherwise, such activities are likely to end in the establishment of an even-less preferable state of affairs, such as that of communism. In the words of Rothbard, “Libertarians have misled themselves by making their main dichotomy “government” vs. “private” with the former bad and the latter good. Government, [Alan Milchman] pointed out, is after all not a mystical entity but a group of individuals, “private” individuals if you will, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang. But this means that there may also be “private” criminals as well as people directly affiliated with the government. What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property. It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus.”

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AnComs in Action and AnCaps’ Inaction

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On Facebook last week, I (largely) inadvertently changed both my cover photo and profile picture to the black-and-yellow Anarcho-Capitalist theme for the first time. This week, of course, small businesses and police cars were torched by Anarcho-Communists around the world in celebration of “May Day”, a Marxist holy day. I figure that now would be the most pertinent time to discuss AnComs in action and AnCaps’ inaction. It’s long-overdue and today is likely the last day I can pretend to be an objective outsider.

Now, I’m going to offend absolutely everyone today, so don’t stop reading when I hurt your feelings… your nemeses will get theirs, too. If I’m going to offend, I may as well start big. I admire two aspects of the AnComs I know and have heard of: they are mutually supportive of everyone even loosely affiliated with anarchism and they are willing to fuck shit up and make a scene.

When one is willing to chain oneself to a tree in Russia as an attempt to prevent the creation of a pit-mining operation, especially if it is likely to end in imprisonment or death, I can infer one or two possibilities. Either, one has nothing to lose, or one is willing to sacrifice everything in order to cause even a modicum of discomfort to one’s enemies. In addition to the dozens or hundreds of AnCom hippies disrupting business as usual, there are thousands publicizing and supporting those radicals.

Many times, even though different factions have incompatible goals, they still promote solidarity between each other. For example, the eco-feminists may protest the petroleum industry and advocate “green” energy in order to smash the patriarchy while also sending money, literature, and publicity to the anti-capitalists destroying the mining equipment used to acquire the lithium for said “green” energies. Obviously, this policy is unsustainable, the moment one group makes actual advances, it will be at the expense of a competing group’s success.

This is where the AnCom appeal to “change everything” comes into play. If Proudhon’s shade were to appear and imbue CrimethInc with phenomenal cosmic powers, they would change everything simultaneously. The eco-feminists and the anti-capitalists would both get what they want; the entire planet would murder all straight men and cease using fossil fuels and the anti-capitalists could establish communist ownership of the lithium mines in order to find far less efficient but more eco-friendly ways of extracting it by hand. Ignoring the inherent coercion and violence in such a solution, it looks vaguely similar to my conception of LibPar.

Unfortunately, the AnComs would not stop at this already impossible set of changes. Communists by default find reality, itself, oppressive. It’s no wonder, though: the very ontology of the universe conspires against many, if not all, of the factions within the big umbrella of Anarcho-Communism. As such, the very operating system of the universe would have to be altered to the point of unrecognizability and absurdity. This state of affairs was once hidden from me in my Marxist days, but came into focus the more philosophically literate I became. This lack of philosophical grounding, though, doesn’t slow down the AnComs one bit.

Conventions and desert gatherings abound. Kurdish feminist AnComs have established themselves as the most effective enemy of ISIS. Unowned and abandoned property around the globe are occupied by AnCom squats. Random communist holy days are punctuated with violent retaliations against state actors. Occupy Whatever finds itself in mainstream media headlines. Anonymous gets pedophiles, terrorists, and legitimate business owners arrested or exiled. Industrial centers burn to the ground. It is no mistake that when average statists hear “anarchist” they think of molotov-wielding college kids; all of this is done at the hands of AnComs, daily, around the globe.

It’s truly unfortunate that these people can be so committed so as to flood prison mailboxes with support of those that get captured by the state and wreak so much damage while also battling the very ontological structure of reality. Imagine if they focused all that undirected fury at their actual oppressors. Instead, the AnComs are relegated to inefficacy and complaining about their successes.

While real AnComs are either in jail or can name several dozen people killed or imprisoned as a result of anti-state activity, I genuinely doubt an AnCap could do more than gesture at Irwin Shiff, Ross Ulbrict, John McAfee, and Derrik J… and only one person on that list really counts. Instead of taking direct action, AnCaps prefer to shout the good news of anarchism on Facebook, iTunes, and YouTube. They write books, give lectures, and look for tax loopholes. They try to teach complicated and abstract concepts to the intellectually crippled masses but, most of all, they argue amongst themselves.

Is the Earth round or flat? Is voting necessary or morally wicked? Is this hypothetical society preferable to that hypothetical society? Is 9mm or .45 cal better personal defense ammo? Is it more effective towards the goal of anarchy to shoot cops or to fuck your wife?

This discussion goes much deeper, though. Without such discussions, we wouldn’t have economics, praxeology, or any accurate sense of ontology. These bases of logic, facts, and evidence provide AnCaps with a cornucopia of toolsets with which to combat the flawed ideologies of both the enemies of freedom as well its misguided defenders. It is this philosophical acuity and epistemic rectitude which has drawn me inexorably nearer and nearer to the ideology of Anarcho-Capitalism, despite my aesthetic distaste for a greater portion of its adherents and agendas.

Why do I find Anarcho-Capitalism aesthetically distasteful (ignoring the clearly superior color choice of the AnComs)? Any reader of this blog will know that I love Woods, Hoppe, Mises, and Rothbard. Those familiar with the literature and politics popular in anarchist circles will note that I’ve drifted closer and closer to Spooner, Molyneux, Cantwell, and Block as time has gone on, even if I still have key disagreements with them. So, it’s clearly not the philosophy or ideology I dislike. It is the lack of action, direct or otherwise. All of us want to be Rothbard, but none of us wants to be Gavrilo Princip, me included. Rather than absolutely every Ancap producing a blog, podcast, merchandise, and peaceful kids and then calling it a day, why not actually engage in capitalism?

Why do so few AnCaps produce an actual service or good? Why do so few AnCaps “spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats”? Why do so few AnCaps actively support those that actually do these things? Why do so few AnCaps engage in Hoppe-style propertarianism? Why, with so many enlightened capitalists acting in a globalized marketplace, is there so little economics cooperation? How do the Anarcho-COMMUNISTS better invest material resources and garner greater victories in the war against the state?

The answer is, I ironically, praxeological in nature. I suppose AnCaps, being productive and cooperative members of society, actually have wealth and offspring at risk, whereas voluntarily sterilized squatters and moochers have nothing to lose. I suppose the cost of actually forming a militia or geographically localizing presents inferior or temporally distant gains as opposed to simply working a job, paying one’s oppressors what is demanded, and bickering over whether HOAs or insurance companies ought to replace the state.

Look who’s talking.”

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Me, dying my hair red and black for May Day while posing in front of an AnCap background.

Yeah, yeah, I’m fully aware of the apparent hypocrisy I’m engaged in. So, what am I going to do? What direct action will I engage in and advocate? Other than the usual boring agorist fare I’m already doing: growing my own food, working odd jobs under the table, using bitcoin, etc…. I have a couple ideas. Firstly, I’m self-investing so as to store enough wealth to, someday, abscond to a developing nation and cease paying Empire. Of course, that’s pretty far off… So, in the here and now, I am engaged in producing certain products directed outside of typical AnCap culture as well as marketing certain projects to AnCaps themselves. I prefer to try and be the first on the market, so I will announce said products as they are realized. The proceeds of said projects will, undoubtedly, be invested in successful AnCap activities as well as my own children. (I’m also engaged in direct action… but don’t want to call down legal recourse upon myself.)

There is an idea I am ill-equipped and not geographically positioned to accomplish but really want to spread to those better situated to enact. Those knowing the lore behind my logo may expect me to call for some sort of ecumenical meeting of all anarchists wherein we discover and build commonalities between the AnComs and AnCaps, and I may have done so in the past… but what I want is for AnCap militias and security firms to set up in Seattle, St. Louis, Baltimore, etc. and beat the AnComs at their own game. Protect private property; keep the “protesters” confined to public property and ensure that their fires and violence are directed solely at the state and its enforcers, fly the yellow-and-black flags over the safe properties and stoically bear witness to the carnage between the AnComs and the regular communists. Begin winning the war of ideas by showing the statist hordes what freedom looks like. If it can get results for the KKK, where they simply show up and save private property “because we’re racist against those looters”, how much more success would the AnCaps have doing the same thing “because private property trumps everything”?

TL;DR: Anarcho-Communists like to start fires, break things, and find ways to influence public discourse. It’s too bad that all that direct action is directed at accomplishing disparate and reality-detached goals. Conversely, Anarcho-Capitalists have a pretty good philosophical grounding, probably the best available in all of human history. It’s too bad that all that knowledge results in little more than theory and tax-producing jobs. Typically, this is where I would have said AnCaps should educate AnComs on economics and AnComs should educate AnCaps on how to take direct action. Instead, I want AnCaps to simply demonstrate the utility inherent to Hoppe’s virtues: defend private property at AnCom or BLM riots, buy out undervalued chunks of land and actually start a Galt’s Gulch, and (sure) sell some books or lapel pins along the way.

FREEDOM! By Willia- Adam Kokesh

I recently came into custody of a copy of Adam Kokesh’s book “FREEDOM!” on the way to a friend of mine.  I figured there would be no harm in quickly reading through the text, myself, while I was waiting for my chance to pass it along to the appropriate party.

At 97 pages, with large font and margins, it’s a pretty simple read.  It’s written in articulate prose while using a third-grade vocabulary, effectively accomplishing the stated goal of the author: to be accessible to as many people as possible, at any reasonable cost.  The book is available in every format imaginable and is free in nearly every format as well.

If someone wants to read (or wants someone they know to read) the basic concept of freedom and non-aggression in a calm, reasoned, amenable voice, this is likely the text I’d recommend.  It isn’t as philosophically or economically involved as I would prefer, but not everyone can just read Human Action over the weekend and become an AnCap; not even I, myself, was able to accomplish such a feat (I read it in two weeks and it took about a year to become an AnCap).  A compromise between the task of reading Human Action or the less-involved (and, while effective, less satisfactory) process of reading “FREEDOM!” would be to look into Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom or read My Book.

What Creates Poverty?

Despite my optimistic bluster a few weeks ago concerning my historio-economic status, I’m not exactly happy with my state of affairs. I currently qualify for all sorts of government welfare (which I refuse to take); not that such a qualification is tied to any particular economic measure worth paying attention to, but it indicates my relationship with poverty. The mom’s group at our local parish, which my wife attends, has a median income three times what I make, and aristocratic ignorance runs rampant. So whose fault is it that I’m poor?

I would love to be able to point my finger at anyone, especially government actors, and say “That asshole is the reason people (like me) are poor.” It would be so great if I could shout “eat the rich” and vote myself a raise at the expense of my betters. I wish I could “feel the Bern”. Of course, being in possession of a functioning brain and moral faculties, I am disallowed participation in systematized misanthropia. If I’m not going to blame bullshit artists like Robert Reich or violent criminal kingpins like Obama, who is to blame?

No one.

Unexpected, right? I mean, in some specific cases, it is possible someone is to blame. If someone was wealthy and had everything stolen from them, the thief would be responsible, or if someone was minding their own business and someone else blew-up or burned down his estate, of course the destroyer is to blame. Poverty on the aggregate, though, isn’t really anyone’s fault.

How can this be the case? What causes poverty? In all reality, this question is a case of the loaded question. Much like asking someone, “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” it is impossible to answer the question without addressing the bias inherent to the question.. “How can one stop what one has never begun?” may sound like dodging the question, but it is the correct answer. A similarly disappointing but truthful response is warranted when one is asked, “What causes poverty?”

Whether one is a Kabbalist, Christian, or atheist Darwinian, the natural or original state of the animal called “man” is one in which the ground is “cursed”, “…in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Given my limited exposure to the plethora of alternatives, it seems other cosmologies agree. Whether it be divine retribution for eating the wrong plant or the environmental forces driving the demand for greater intelligence, Man was born out of the absence of wealth. Not only is our species as a whole born out of poverty, but each individual man, from Cain to Trump, were forcibly evicted from their mothers’ wombs, slimy, naked, angry, and cold. In other words, poverty is the natural state of affairs.

If this seems unlikely or excessive to you, I would like to know whether you tend to agree with Hobbes or Rousseau more. Hobbes proposed a thought experiment, in the Leviathan, wherein one would reflect on one’s own nature and proceed to imagine a world without all of the trappings of technology and community we currently have. He quickly concludes that, without things like agriculture and coercive monopolies on force, the state of nature would be resource-scarce and very violent, resulting in a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Rousseau liked the experiment, but disagreed concerning what a world devoid of technology and government would look like. He suggested that the fictitious accounts of native peoples more closely represented the state of nature. He posited that the state of nature was that of a tropical paradise: food in abundance, no natural predators, nothing to do but eat, sunbathe, and procreate.

Both philosophers found their respective states of nature distasteful and used them as excuses for creating totalitarian communist monarchies. I disagree with both of them on both the state of nature and the “solution” to it, but I certainly sound like a Hobbesian at times. Even in the case of Rousseau’s “horrible” state of nature with food just laying around, that food is useless lest someone go retrieve and prepare it. Rousseau ignores this while Hobbes creates a caricature of this reality, wherein one must frantically search for even a berry bush and murder anyone else that discovers it, as well. Either way, though, one will starve if one doesn’t put in the minimum effort to accumulate the level of wealth required for survival.

The common basis of every apocalypse or disaster movie (or video game) is the fragile nature of wealth. The greatest monuments to human accomplishment, such as cities, sprawling farmland, the internet, etc. are held together by several very fragile lynchpins. The infrequency with which cities implode, farmlands dry up, websites go down, and entire populations disappear into the wilderness is, frankly, baffling to me. It really is a testament to human genius that such things could be built and an indication of man’s tenacity that they can survive. This is because the question is not, “What creates poverty?” but instead, “What creates wealth?”

“Labor!” shouts Marx. “Lucky Chance!” shouts Smith. “Fairness!” shouts Rawls. “More violence!” shouts every political candidate this year. There are nearly as many answers as there are political philosophers. This question is a very tricky one. Given my earlier allusion to labor in my example of poverty, one might assume I lean towards a labor theory of value/wealth. This isn’t entirely true, though. One example stands out to me which demonstrates the two major issues with such an answer. There is an older man that lives in my parents’ neighborhood who, nearly every day, sits in front of his house and moves rocks from one pile to another, one rock at a time. He puts in thirty-or-so hours of labor a week but, in most accounts, has accomplished nothing. It is certain that merely moving rocks back and forth did not create any wealth, Keynes’ lies aside.

That’s the first issue; labor does not necessarily create wealth or value. Value! That’s the second issue. If this guy isn’t getting paid and produces no discernible fruits from his labor, whatever motivation he must have in order to do what he does must be intrinsic. Intrinsic to himself, not the action itself. Perhaps he’s mentally ill and moving rocks scratches some mental itch; perhaps it serves some physical therapy role; perhaps he’s just bored and hasn’t discovered video games or drugs yet. The point is he clearly finds value in an activity that no one else does. This is because value is subjective.

Right this moment, I value one hour of my wife performing “wifely duties” more than I would value one hour of a cardiologist. When I inevitably have a heart attack some time in the future, I will likely value the labor of a cardiologist than that of an intimate encounter. The same goes for the Tom Woods Liberty Classroom subscription I got. I value the experience of a detailed series of courses concerning history and economics more than I value the money it cost; you clearly have not yet made the same determination.

Labor is an ingredient for the creation of wealth, but insufficient in itself. Perhaps resources? Saudi Arabia seems pretty wealthy, and that wealth is coincidental with oil availability… North America has a lot of most resources and has always been pretty wealthy (since white people moved in, anyway)… There seems to be a correlation. Of course, oil in the ground is useless unless someone puts in the labor to get it out of the ground and render it usable. Oil is an interesting example because, for the first 99.9% of human history, it was nothing but a costly nuisance when encountered. Only after someone came up with a use for it did oil have any value. Same for uranium, iron, copper, tin, even gold: they are useless without human inventiveness.

Introspectively, I doubt that my creativity, work ethic, and luck can overcome my needs and limitations sufficiently so as to create wealth. I could possibly build an aquaponic microfarm and a reasonable house with which I could tend to my family’s survival. Unfortunately, I doubt that I could amass much wealth by way of tending my garden; my only chance at retirement would be to produce enough viable offspring such that at least one would be willing and able to take on my work and feed me.

This isn’t due to insufficiency in the production method. I could easily produce a surplus of food and find ways to store and preserve it, but a pantry with a lifetime supply of salsa and preserves isn’t exactly what most people consider “wealth”. I can’t clothe myself in salsa, build a house out of preserves, or create electricity from fish scales. What I would need in order to transform my reources and labor into wealth would be to transform my surplus or products into the resources and labor of others.

I know, I know… “Leave it to the anarchist to bring it all back around to markets.” That’s right, the means by which one can convert one’s available resources, be it labor, ingenuity, raw materials, whatever, into wealth is by trading it with other individuals. If I have a surplus of salsa but a paucity of clothing, I can find an individual who has a paucity of salsa but a surplus of clothing and trade the salsa I don’t want or need for the clothing I do. In this way, both the farmer and the clothier are enriched. The enrichment is what’s known as wealth. This is the glory of the market: due to limitations such as marginal utility, human action is able to create a positive-sum game in which everybody wins.

Finding a clothier that wants salsa may be difficult. If, as a community, producers create an abstracted resource with a reliable and stable supply, such as silver coins or bitcoins, this exchange can see drastically reduced friction. This is money, obviously. This money is simply another commodity for trade; if I have a surplus of salsa and my clothier has no demand for salsa, but both he and I deal in bitcoin, I can trade my salsa to someone who wants it in exchange for bitcoin and then exchange that bitcoin for clothing. An added bonus is the permanence of money; I can take something perishable like tomatoes and turn them into something that doesn’t go away, like money. I could keep going for thousands of pages about all of the astounding emergent properties of something so simple as one guy trading with another, but that’s already been done and that’s not the point of this post.

So, the state of nature is that of poverty; the base operating system of this universe we find ourselves in is that of poverty. Wealth is the escape for the natural state of man, something accomplished by the voluntary exchange of goods and services for mutual benefit. Wealth is literally a creatio ex nihilo, a miracle of loaves, by which one takes one’s lack, one’s need, and turns it into something valuable.

“Well, then, why are there poor people? Are you telling me that poor people refuse to provide value to others?” Some of them, yes. Probably a minority, though. More likely, there are certain forces at work which prevent the chronically poor from producing wealth. Some, like my parents’ neighbor, may have biological deficiencies which limit one’s options for creating wealth. I’m not saying that these people are incapable of producing wealth in some way, only that their options are limited and the may not have discovered their remaining options yet. More likely than personal limitations, though, are institutional ones.

No, I’m not talking about boogeymen like “the patriarchy” or “racism”. I’m speaking of criminal gangs which, rather than engaging in market activities (making products and trading them for mutual gain), engage in wealth-destroying activities: a.k.a. coercion, murder, and theft. If I have the ability to produce plants and trade them to others for money, foods desirable for their health benefits, services that are pleasurable, or products which are otherwise in-demand, and someone points a gun at me and threatens to cage or kill me for doing so, that criminal is preventing the creation of wealth.

Of course I couldn’t go a whole post without pointing out how governments are actively destroying the human creature. By using violence and coercion to “re-distribute” wealth, the state takes wealth from those that have created it and subsidize those who don’t. As a matter of fact, it even destroys the ability of some to create wealth. By stealing money and using it to monopolize security, roads, financial instruments, etc. the state destroys the ability of those who actually produce such services to create wealth because they no longer have the ability to voluntarily engage with those who have a demand for such services.

Without getting too involved in economic realities, the amount of bitcoin I must offer to entice my clothier to trade is a function of supply and demand, and the market signals sent by human action on the aggregate. By way of criminal coercion in the form of legal tender laws, mandatory purchases, licensure, and otherwise preventing voluntary exchange of goods and services coupled with theft in the form of taxation, asset forfeiture, everything done by the Federal reserve, welfare, and so much more, the state sends false market signals which result in encouraging bad investments. If that sounds like something more benign than the wholesale destruction of wealth, you need to read about the dust bowl and the 2008 housing crisis, not to mention literally nearly every other bowl, drought, famine, and plague in human history.

It’s not too hard to realize that the state makes laws for two reasons: to make people do things they don’t want to or to make people refrain from doing things that they do want to do. Instead of allowing nature to take its course, rewarding beneficial behaviors and punishing detrimental behaviors, the state subsidizes detrimental behaviors and shields individuals from the repercussions of ill-advised behaviors. At the same time, beneficial behaviors are disincentivized and penalized. So, if “Nothing creates poverty; poverty is the basic reality of the human experience,” is somehow unsatisfying, an acceptable rhetorical move would be to say, “Criminals, by way of destroying wealth, create poverty. The state is the most effective band of criminals and the greatest destroyer of wealth.

TL;DR: The world we live in is one finely-tuned such so as to allow humans to exist, but only barely so. As such, poverty is the natural state of affairs, it is literally this state of nature which drove the creation of humanity as we know it. Nothing creates poverty; what one should ask is “How is wealth created? How does one escape poverty?” To which the answer is “The voluntary exchange of goods and services, a.k.a. the market, creates wealth.” The state, though its innately criminal actions, destroys and prevents the creation of wealth. So, why am I poor? I am poor because I have not yet overcome the impediments to wealth creation set out be the state, whether it be due to laziness, ineptitude, risk aversion, or the insurmountability of the state’s impediment.

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Easy Bitcoin Access and Use

Bitcoin, as both a technology and as a currency, is an invaluable tool for the rise of freedom and decentralization.  There are those in governments (especially the US government) who understand this and are doing their best to smother it in its crib.  The remainder are ignorant and happen to be blundering their way into attempting the very same sort of abortion.

Fortunately, the government cannot regulate Bitcoin, they can only regulate the points of contact between Bitcoin and the legacy systems that the government controls.  This, of course, has made access through exchanges and more traditional methods of exchanging one form of money for another quite difficult and somewhat risky.  Fortunately, where there is a market demand, the market provides:

Purse.io is a simple solution to a ridiculous problem.  Much like Brawker, a previous endorsement of mine that has since gone out of business, Purse.io allows one to essentially use their credit/debit card to buy Bitcoins.

Basically, someone makes a wishlist entry on a site like Amazon and places an appropriate amount of bitcoin into an escrow wallet to purchase that item.  You then order that item form their wishlist.  When they receive the item, the bitcoin is released from escrow and sent to your account.  Congratulations! You’ve just got yourself some invaluable magic internet money.
The process works in reverse, as well.  If you want to spend your newly-acquired Bitcoin to buy something from Amazon (say the price jumps in value 600% again and your $50 in BTC becomes $300 in BTC overnight), You need only to make an Amazon wishlist entry and to place enough bitcoin to make the purchase worthwhile to another Purse.io user (people frequently get amazon products at a 5-25% discount buying in BTC) and just wait for someone to fulfill that wish.

I’ve only used the service once, but the UI was seamless and easy to use, the instructions were clear and simple, and I managed to get my Bitcoin right away, courtesy of same-day shipping on Amazon.  This is a great starting place for people who are bit-curious but intimidated by all the paperwork and regulatory bullshit associated with using fiat to buy crypto-assets on exchanges.

A Crash Course in (Bad) Economics

Earlier this week, a friend of mine sent me a video with the comment, “Thoughts? Because this sounds pretty legit.” Given Robert Reich’s credentials, for the first few seconds I was expecting it to be a mostly-true Chicago (or mainstream) analysis of the American economy. At about 7 seconds in, I thought it was going to satire, and at 30 seconds I realized I had to pause the video and pour myself a drink.

In Principle:

This man, Reich, demonstrates throughout the video that he is an adherent to the Keynesian method of econometrics, which is not actually economics. It is econometrics: a pseudo-scientific form of soothsaying which has dictated the economic policies of governments in North America and most of Europe since the turn of the twentieth century, causing every depression, recession, and economic crisis since then.

Everything Reich says flies in the face of both real economics (the Austrian school) and it’s new-age, left-leaning cousin, the Chicago school. Ostensibly, the source of my ire is a 2.5 minute video dispelling myths about the economy which are damaging society at large. In reality, I am disappointed that people fall for the rhetoric of Reich and his cohorts’ demagoguery when they so obviously beg important questions while simultaneously making claims with no substantive arguments to support them.

Even though frequent readers/listeners already know, it is important to remind people that I am not a Republican. This video is obviously designed as a political hit-piece against common republican rhetoric, a-la the arch-Keynesian, Paul Krugman. In the common political landscape, if I dislike or argue against this hit-piece (regardless of its facticity), I must be a Republican. This could not be further than the truth; every policy put in place by republicans, all the way back to Lincoln, has done incalculable economic and social harm. To endorse republicanism is to endorse genocide, theft, and theomisanthropic puritania.

Back to Reich. Being a Keynesian, he believes the economy is a machine with a handful of levers and knobs which remain constant unless the chairman of the Fed or the President adjusts them. This is a horribly flawed ontology. “The economy” is nothing more than the emergent properties of individuals’ actions on the aggregate; changing market signals by artificial means results in changes in the economy due to individuals adjusting their behavior around the impediments created by such meddling. These adjustments’ results have been consistently predicted by the Austrian school, but not the Keynesian method.

The three “myths” covered in the video are “’the rich’ are the job creators,” “The ‘free market’ and government are opposites,” and “We should be worried about the size and scope of government.” At this point, one should understand why I had to remind readers I am not a republican and why I’m so pissed that someone could fall for this video. In the course of “dispelling” these “myths”, Reich makes twelve claims… ten of which are simply untrue and the other two have nothing to do with the issue at hand. We’ll just run through them all, really quick, and we will all feel better and understand economics a little more.

Most people haven’t gotten a raise in years.”
This is a tired old piece of rhetoric that, while hinting at truth, is itself false. By every reasonable metric, the “working class” (which is directly alluded to in this video) has, collectively, seen raises over the last several decades. This is the result of two functions. The first can be explained with my own experiences as an example. I am “working class”, and I have walked a journey typical of hard-working individuals within the “working class”. I have slowly increased my income by way of improving my set of marketable talents and bolstering my resume, thereby “getting a raise” and improving my quality of life by way of having more to negotiate with when seeking employment.

Of course, being a Keynesian, Reich is a collectivist. On the aggregate, I have not received much more of a raise than has been the historical trend for “the working class” as a whole. Therefore, on the aggregate, “the working class” hasn’t received a raise. Unless you take into account the fact that my yearly salary (which is typical for “my class”) is comparable to that of an upper-middle class family in the 1960s. I am only “working class” because of two driving factors overlooked by Reich: inflationary fiscal policies (the dollar today is worth mere pennies as compared to the dollar of the 1960s) and a drastically improved quality of life. If I were to choose to live the life of an upper-middle-class man in the 1960s, I could almost do so. But why would I want to eschew air conditioning, microwaves, cell phones, computers, internet, quality television, power steering, coffee machines, Dungeons and Dragons, spandex… and this whole list is just off the top of my head. The reality, revealed by looking at the actual numbers, is that “the working class” makes more now than it ever has throughout history, we just have more awesome shit to spend it on, and that’s a good thing.

This whole discussion, of course, ignores the reality that “the working class” is defined by a particular degree of income, and so it would be impossible for “the working class” to get a raise, as the moment one moves up or down, they are part of a different class.

“CEOs get paid a lot.”
Yes, they do. I’m not sure why this is an issue, though. CEOs are hired employees, just like every burger-flipper, paper-pusher, or department manager; they must demonstrate to their employer that their service is worth more than they are getting paid. If a CEO gets paid $300,000 a year, it is because they, through their management of executive resources, have earned the company a significant percentage more, probably in the ballpark of 200% or more. I get paid a certain amount to do my job because the market value for my services are about 110% of what I charge. If we were to apply the same criteria to both myself and a CEO, either I should get paid half as much or a CEO should get paid twice as much as they currently are… Aren’t we lucky that CEO’s don’t get paid as much as they could/should?

Still, I fail to see why we should care how much someone voluntarily pays someone else for voluntarily providing a service.

“The middle class and poor create jobs by spending.”
What is a job and how is it created? A job is created when someone has a desire or need he is either unable or unwilling to meet on his own and so he pays someone else to do it for him. This is what’s called “the division of labor”. In the case of craftsmen in the past, I would provide a blacksmith with a job by hiring him to make me horseshoes or swords or something. It is true that peasants such as myself would require the blacksmith’s services and would, therefore, directly lead to the creation of jobs by way of increasing demand, but even in this framework, the noblemen and kings would be the primary source of demand: shoeing cavalry, arming armies, furnishing castles… much more demand than the occasional plow or horseshoe.

In this modern, service-based economy, the situation is

different. There are a good number of middle-class and poor individuals that open “mom and pops” shops and other businesses that operate similarly to the craftsmen of old but, by far and away, the largest source of jobs is large corporations. Wal-Mart alone employs 1% of the available workforce in America, and the other companies everyone loves to hate, like Mc Donalds and fast food conglomerates employ most of the other 99% of available workers.

These employers are the product of “the rich” identifying a demand and meeting it. In other words, a substantial majority of jobs are created by “the rich”. “But,” you might say (if you’re a Keynesian), “that demand you say the rich identify and meet is clearly the aggregate demand created by the poor and middle class… so the poor and middle class is still the foundation of this causal chain. Ha!” They certainly are the cause for the demand, but even if the poor and middle class suddenly decided, as a whole, that they no longer desired cheap, low-quality, and convenient food and appliances, that would be offset by their demand shifting to a new good or service. Who will meet that new demand? “The rich”. Demand, when viewed at a high enough altitude, is merely a function of population size.

“We need minimum wage, overtime protection, and tax breaks to give the poor more money.”
Laws such as minimum wage, mandatory maternity leave, or benefits/obamacare regulations only serve to hurt the poor. As I alluded to in the CEO claim, the amount an individual gets paid must at least be marginally less than the amount one generates for one’s employer. If, by making a shit-ton of lattes for Starbucks generates approximately $10/hr (after they pay for the materials, machinery, facility…), I would have to offer my services for less than $10/hr in order to entice Starbucks to hire me. If the minimum wage were to suddenly jump to or above $10/hr, Starbucks would have to find ways to improve efficiency or otherwise cut costs. Most likely baristas/cashiers would get replaced with robots that cost more than a barista does now, but less than $10/hr.

Ready for some real economics? What I just described is called a “price floor”, and economics has a great deal of a-priori and evidential data on the effects of price floors. Here’s what the economists have found:

Price floors create surpluses.
Minimum wage is a price floor for labor.
Minimum wage creates a surplus of labor.
A surplus of labor is unemployment.
Minimum wage causes unemployment.

Other mandatory expenses such as overtime protections, mandatory leave, benefits, etc. effectively increase the cost of employees as well. Instead of being allowed to compete on one’s own merits and negotiation, one must also compete with regulations which make one’s labor more expensive by artificial means. An easy real-world example exists in my department at work. My department has five part-time employees getting paid to do the work of two full-time employees. In order to entice the part-timers to work, my employer must assign more hours than needed to each of them, leading to waste. That waste, however, is still smaller than the amount of additional mandatory cost of simply hiring two of them full-time and no longer remain underemployed and impoverished. In a free market, these same opportunities would be afforded to the other three part-timers at other employers (if they wanted to take them).

He was right about taxes, in this instance, though. If the government would stop stealing property from the poor, the quality of life and upward mobility of the poor would increase dramatically…

“We can only afford this by taxing the rich.”
…Oh. Being a Keynesian, what Reich means is “The federal government can only continue to spend more each year than the year prior if it continues to steal more money each year. If it steals less from the poor, it must steal more from the rich.” This is one of the many points of contention between the Keynesian method and economics which will never be resolved; both the evidence and the a-priori data indicates that taxation is bad for the economy, while the Keynesian method demands ever-increasing taxation to fuel ever-increasing government spending.

The simple reality is that taxation is theft and one ought to execute the taxman. Voting to raise taxes (on anyone) is tantamount to the higest orders of extortion.

“The free market doesn’t exist in nature.”
The free market IS nature. More on this in a moment.

“…it is created by government.”
Despite what republican and other socialist rhetoricians believe, the term “free market” actually means something. The free market is so called because it is a space in which goods and services can be exchanged freely (a.k.a. voluntarily) without the initiation of coercive force. A Keynesian will claim that no such space could exist (due to an irrationally broad definition of “coercive” and “force”). As such, Reich, claims that the only thing that can resemble a free market is one in which a strongman will impose coercive force across the board in the form of regulations, restrictions, prohibitions, licensure, taxation, price controls, and mandatory predatory loans (legal tender laws and federal reserve notes), all enforced by the threat of greater theft, imprisonment, and murder. In other words, we are already living in Keynes utopia.

The closest examples we have of the free market in contemporary culture is my under-the-table handyman work, the Silk Road (and its offspring), and my friend growing and selling pot out of a port-a-potty warehouse. The thing they all have in common? They are largely beyond the reach of government violence.

“Monopolies will happen without government, so we need government (which is a monopoly on force)
I believe the absurdity of this claim is self-evident. So, instead, I want to go back to the “state of nature” discussion. Economics, in its general conception, is the study of the application of scarce resources. In the case if environments with scarce resources, those that are better suited to investing said resources win and those unable or unwilling to invest well will fail. In biological terms, those best adapted to a particular environment will thrive and reproduce while the ill-adapted perish. In the case of a tool-making species with a fluid division of labor, those that produce the most utility for others in the environment will get rich while those who waste resources remain impoverished. The free market is the natural extension of horizontal evolution when applied to a tool-making and service-trading species. The free market IS nature.

“We need only worry about who the government works for, not the size or scope of it.”
One must remember that “the government” is nothing more than a group of individuals acting with common purpose: governance. Therefore “the government” is either a corporation in the employ of its own segment of “the rich” which owns the corporation (this is where you insert your pet conspiracy theory) or “the government” works for itself by default and necessity. In any case, “the government” is never going to work for you or me. Less cynically, though, we could pretend that “the 99%” could buy out the government from “the 1%”. So far, every attempt that even remotely succeeded has demonstrated that such projects produce undesirable outcomes: the French revolution(s), the Bolshevik revolution, the rise of the Third Reich…

“Big money in politics makes for bad politics and a rigged game.”
This is almost true and has nothing to do with the three “myths”, but I will address it anyway. There is an unimpeachably strong correlation between big money in politics and politics being bad and the game being rigged. However, correlation is not causation. Turns out, politics is always bad and the game is rigged by design. That’s what differentiates the government from the free market. Adding big money merely increases the funds with which government can pursue bad outcomes.

“Yay 99%, boo 1%.”
This sentiment no longer warrants an intellectual response. If you want to hear something a little less intellectual and a little more violent, listen to the audio version of this post.

TL;DR: Each of the three “myths” presented by Robert Reich in this video are, in fact, true, as is demonstrated by this brief and incredibly superficial refutations of his nonsense presented as refutations of the “myths”. Read some Mises before listening to scam artists on Youtube. Yes, “Human Action” is far more dense and difficult to understand, but who said that the truth would be easier to understand than lies? Oh, that’s right, demagogues like Robert Reich.

Instead of listening to this clown, go to www.mises.org

Freedom Through Agorism

The basic tenet of agorism is the belief that through simply disregarding laws and regulations, when coupled with technological advances that circumvent those laws and regulations, will be an effective tactic to either eliminate or escape from the clutches of the state.  I imagine that agorism, without violence and exodus, will not likely succeed.  This is a contentious area of discussion within the philosophies of liberty.

However, this is not a full-post concerning agorism and its strengths and weaknesses (that will have to come sometime next year).  Instead, today, I present to you something that both an agorist and a brutalist would shed a single tear of joy over:

3D printers are the means of production that Marx, Konkin III, and Bergmann each had envisioned as “the end (telos, reason for) of history”.  The AnCaps, also, have a particular place in their hearts for 3D printers, as they are the culmination of centuries of capitalist market forces.  More so than the internet, commercial space flight, or affordable quad-copters (all of which are excellent consumer products created by the free market), 3D printing is possibly the greatest contribution to society to-date.  Even though it is still in it’s infant stages as a technology, 3D printing is becoming increasingly affordable and more resilient.

Today’s resource suggestion is simply a website which showcases different 3D printer designs for things such as firearms.  It’s obviously mostly just an excuse to gush over 3D printers and an open endorsement of manufacturing firearms discreetly and outside the purview of law-enforcement.